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This question is more general and doesn't apply specifically to ecommerce sites even though the discussion mentions them a little.

Specifically, we know we can't do business on Shabbat. So what is the action on the part of the user and on the part of the owner that is considered "doing business"? Certainly that would be forbidden?

And if, for example, it's when the money becomes available, why doesn't that forbid me from doing business in the days leading up to Shabbat (depending on how long it takes the funds to become available)?

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See also judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4169 –  msh210 Aug 5 '11 at 6:08

3 Answers 3

With regards to internet websites on shabbos, there are two sides to be lenient:

  1. http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/halacha/Issue7.pdf mentions that one can keep a vending machine open on shabbos, because the pay one is getting is paid "Behavlaah" (Though I don't understand why, unless we're dealing with a contractor).
  2. When one buys and sells through the internet, the transaction isn't finalized for a few days. Moreover, then it isn't "Schar Shabbos" because the work that one is getting paid for took place before Shabbos.

Also look up http://www.thefoundationstone.org/en/beitmidrash/general/4191-businessnon-shabbos-a-yom-tov-part-iii.html for a more complete discussion.

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This is addressed from various angles by Rabbi Alfred Cohen in "Internet Commerce on Shabbat", Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, volume L (Fall 2005), pages 38–61.

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The Rambam (Hil. Shabbos 23:12) is clear that the buyer and seller are both included in the prohibition of business on Shabbos:

וכן אסור לקנות ולמכור, ולשכור ולהשכיר--שמא יכתוב

It is prohibited to buy and sell ... lest one come to write

The Divrei Malkiel 4:2 explains the prohibition of the seller:

דהא עכ"פ צריך להראות לו היכן מונח הדבר וגם משגיח כמה הוא נוטל

The seller must show him where the item is, and oversee how much he takes.

According to this, it would seemingly be OK by ecommerce, where the seller is completely uninvolved in the actual event of the transaction.

However, the Chelkas Yaakov 1:62 explains it as follows:

האיסור למוכר משום הריצוי והסכם ג"כ

The prohibition is also for the seller because of his willingness to sell and consent to the sale

This would possibly include the sales that happen on Shabbos with the owner's consent.

Additionally, the Eizer Lashovsim Siman 10 explains it as follows:

האיסור הוא להיות חלק ממקו"מ בשבת. וזהו גופא מה שגזרו חז"ל שלא יהא חפצים יוצאים מרשותינו או נכנסים לרשותינו בשבת ע"י מקו"מ ... דהאיסור המציאות ולא המעשה

The prohibition is to be party to a sale on Shabbos, and this is exactly what Chazal were decreeing, that there should not be objects changing ownership on Shabbos through commerce ... the prohibition is the reality of the transaction and not the act.

This would include a sale even if you did not actively participate or even have active awareness of its happening.

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